The UK’s NHS breaches data laws 6 times a day including social media snafus

The UK’s NHS breaches data laws 6 times a day including social media snafus

Patient records are lost or inappropriately shared by the NHS an average of six times a day, according to new research (PDF) from privacy pressure group Big Brother Watch.

The organisation conducted a survey of NHS trusts across Britain and found there have been 7,255 reported breaches of data protection rules in three years.

The data breaches included at least 50 cases of information relating to patients being posted on social media and 143 cases where NHS staff accessed private records for “personal reasons”.

Big Brother Watch obtained the information using Freedom of Information Act requests and says penalties need to be strengthened to force the NHS to buck up its ideas.

Emma Carr, director of Big Brother Watch, says: “The information held in medical records is of huge personal significance and for details to be wrongly disclosed, maliciously accessed or lost is completely unacceptable. With an increasing number of people having access to patients’ information, the threat of data breaches will only get worse.”

The NHS has promised to give patients real-time access to their records by 2020. Carr says: “If the government wants to introduce new schemes which will make the public’s data more accessible, then this must go hand in hand with greater penalties for those who abuse that process.”

South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (Mental Health) had the largest number of incidents where data was exposed with 869 breaches. It was followed by Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust and Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, both of which had more than 500 breaches. Trusts have previously received huge fines for misusing patient data.

Many of the examples of breaches in the report have nothing to do with computer systems. They include confidential details being sent to the wrong patient, staff dropping patient notes in a public place and files being left unguarded on a trolley.

➤ Patient Confidentiality Broken Six Times A Day [Big Brother Watch]

Image credit: Shutterstock

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